In 2012, the European Defence Agency (EDA) initiated the MMF programme to address the long-standing European shortfall in the air-to-air refuelling capacity. Since then, the initiative has grown into a mature programme managed by the NSPA and supported by the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) for the acquisition phase. Today, with five out of nine aircraft delivered, the military unit has started to perform military operational missions, paving the way to achieve Initial Operational Capability.
The MMF provides not only an excellent example of cooperation between the EU and NATO and their respective agencies, it also gives testimony to how nations can cooperate, pooling and sharing resources to access state of the art capabilities that would be difficult or impossible to access individually. All the nations involved, irrespective of their size and the required number of flying hours, have access to the MMF capabilities. The programme has developed a transparent and fair cost sharing mechanism based on flying hour costs and outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding. This enables smaller nations to join with a limited amount of flying hours but still with assured access to an entire fleet of aircraft. In addition, larger nations benefit from economies of scale offered by this multinational cost sharing arrangement.
Nations may also leverage the Support Partnership mechanism to address individual national requirements. For instance, Albania and Bulgaria have recently joined our Helicopter Support Partnership. Both countries operate COUGAR helicopter fleets that require maintenance operations. Within days from joining the partnership, NSPA started the overhaul of the first helicopters making use of existing contracts. As a result, both nations benefit from the consolidation of requirements, satisfying urgent national requirements within a very short timeframe, while reducing costs.
For years, the Agency has also supported many European cooperation programmes and initiatives. From the automated support provided for the TIGER and NH90 helicopters, to the A400M aircraft support that NSPA rendered OCCAR and the support to the COBRA radar.
In addition, since 2015, NSPA has been developing its acquisition, planning and development capabilities as instructed by the North Atlantic Council. We look to the future to help Allies identify and develop multinational cooperative projects to deliver key defence capabilities required to face the security challenges of today and tomorrow.
An important and recent initiative in this area is the Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC). A significant amount of the current helicopter fleets in service with NATO and European Allies will reach the end of their life cycle in the 2035-40 period, with the subsequent need for replacements. The NGRC offers a multinational framework under which participants can combine efforts towards the design, the development and eventually the acquisition of the next generation of medium multi-role rotorcraft capabilities.
The NGRC is a potential successor to the Merlin Mk4
France, Germany, Greece and Italy, with the United Kingdom in the lead, are the participating nations. Spain, the Netherlands and the United States are observer nations. Our Agency has been entrusted by the nations to act as the Executing Agent for the Concept Stage. In this phase and based on the nations' requirements, we are looking for solutions for a multinational fleet construct that meets the nations' needs and that enhances interoperability.
It is clear that there are many ways in which NSPA can assist to build European defence capability. Whether for current or future, national or collective requirements, nations will always find effective and cost efficient solutions if they come to NSPA.
In 2020, over 60% of the requirements placed with NSPA in 2020 were placed by European Nations, with Germany, Italy and Spain as some of the major customers.
My ambition as the new NSPA General Manager is to further grow the NSPA portfolio of capabilities and our customer base, while ensuring the Agency remains an attractive option for all NATO Allies and Partner Nations. This includes expanding our role as a capability enabler for European nations enhancing multinational cooperation and interoperability.